Are Cats Conscious ? 11 Facts You Need To Know


Consciousness is not a process. Rather it is a kind of behavior controlled by the brain. Consciousness is present in all animals- mammals, birds, and cephalopods.

Studies and the general behaviors of cats show that they are conscious beings. It is easy to map a cat’s consciousness regarding different things. For instance, they purr, meow, or rub themselves against humans when petted, meow loudly when hungry, hiss when scared, and so on. 

The observed behaviors show that cats are aware of their emotions and environment. Being conscious and being self-conscious are two different things. Below is the table that talks about consciousness among two species of felines- Bengal and other domestic cats.

Consciousness/ Self-ConsciousnessBengal CatsDomestic Cats
ConsciousYesYes
Self-ConsciousnessNoNo
Recognizes Reflection on a MirrorNoNo
Are Cats Conscious ?
Image Credit: Cat in the garden by WeeJeeVee (CC BY-SA 4.0) from Wikimedia

This post has been dedicated to precisely looking into the matter of whether cats are self-conscious or self-aware. We will try to answer some most frequently asked questions to derive the fact. 

Are cats conscious of themselves?

Image Credit: Buddy Cat at the Mirror by David Saddler (CC BY 2.0) from Flickr

Cats have awareness. However, it is unclear at this point if they are aware of themselves or self-conscious. So let’s look into the details.

There is no denying that cats are intelligent. Cats, however, fail the red dot test regarding self-consciousness. To put it simply, a cat will either ignore its reflection in a mirror or mistake it for another cat. It will never experience self-awareness in the same way that humans do. Cats, therefore, lack visual self-awareness or consciousness.

The red dot test, also known as the mirror self-recognition test, is a test to determine whether a person or an animal can recognize their own image in a mirror. 

A red dot is placed on an area of the animal that they wouldn’t typically be able to view. A mirror is then placed in front of them. If the animal notices its own reflection or touches the red dot, it shows it has self-consciousness. On the other hand, they don’t have any concept of self-consciousness if they don’t exhibit any such conduct.

Are all animals conscious?

Animals’ consciousness is an area that has gained popularity among researchers. And there are several debates in this context. So let’s shed some light on if all animals are conscious.

Experts have provided consensus in asserting that consciousness is a reality among mammals, birds, and cephalopods. However, there is an increasing debate on if it is at all possible to derive which animal or species has more level of consciousness among others. 

Consciousness itself is a very elusive and ambiguous subject. And it becomes further difficult when we try to give it a concrete form in the shape of animal consciousness. That being said, the concept of consciousness involves “self-consciousness” or “self-awareness,” which is not present in all animal species. 

Do all cats get self-conscious?

Image Credit: A black cat by Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0) from Flickr

The concept of self-consciousness is often related to a certain level of intelligence. It is not as simple as being aware of the surroundings or emotional. It is about being conscious of the self. 

Cats do not fall under the category of self-conscious animals. They are not at all conscious of their appearance or know who they are. Also, it is a debatable topic if cats can ever get self-conscious at any point in their life. 

Nonetheless, some experts argue that cats can display public self-consciousness. Such incidents can be observed when we see a queen grooming itself to attract tomcats during the mating season. It is conjecture as far as personal self-consciousness is concerned.

What is cat consciousness like?

Although cats are not known for having sufficient self-consciousness, they possess consciousness. But, how cat consciousness looks like?

Cats are smart creatures, and their consciousness is pretty visible. In other words, cats display their consciousness via observable behaviors. For example, cats purr when they feel happy, hiss when scared or angry, meow loudly when hungry, and rub against their humans when petted. All these behaviors show that cats are conscious creatures. 

In what situation are cats most conscious?

Have you ever seen your cat reacting more under certain situations than others? Have you ever thought about why? Well, maybe because they are more conscious in some situations. 

We can find cats typically displaying consciousness via observable movements and behaviors. So, in that sense, it can be stated that cats are most conscious when being surrounded by other cats, hungry, near their potential partner, scared of something, etc. 

What kind of consciousness do cats have?

Image Credit: A cat half slept by Didgeman from Pixabay

We know that there are only a few animal species that have self-consciousness. That being said, cats and more conscious than self-conscious.

Cats’ consciousness is a subject that has attracted more attention in recent years. However, it is debatable, and there is never a consensus between cat owners and experts. Nevertheless, it is often viewed that cats display consciousness that they are aware of their surroundings and feelings, and they experience reality.

However, it is yet to be proved if they possess a proper sense of self-consciousness as humans. So far, most studies have shown that cats don’t seem to be aware of themselves in any conceptual way. For example, they do not have the concept of ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘ugly,’ ‘pretty,’ etc. 

What are cats’ levels of consciousness?

It is often a matter of interest to analyze a cat’s consciousness level. And this is something that has always piqued the mind of cat owners.

Although a debatable sphere, it won’t be wrong to state that a cat’s consciousness level is very superficial. We are trying to state that cats cannot think deeply or contemplate. Instead, they show their consciousness about what they feel and experience, like hunger, fear, love, etc. 

Do cats have the ability to think?

Feline intelligence is not an oxymoron. On the contrary, cats are indeed smart people, making us question whether they can think.

Experts suggest that cats cannot think consciously but only subconsciously. They can, however, ponder on memories. Cats have working memories that they can use to learn new things. So, cats do not particularly contemplate or have idle thoughts like humans or think in language because they lack Wernecke’s area, which is in charge of language comprehension.

In this regard, it is crucial to note that a little stimulus may give your cat a fresh perspective on its memories. For instance, when you open the door, your cat can suddenly recall the memory of going outdoors for walks.

What Do cats think all day?

Image Credit: A cat thinking by Smriti Rai from Pixahive

We often find our cats aloof and sitting in a corner, truly involved in themselves. Unfortunately, such situations often make us think of them as indifferent. But that is not the thing; your cat may just be spending time thinking.

It is difficult to state what cats think all day. But they do think at a subconscious level. They can think about various matters, but not at the same level as humans. For instance, they may think about food. A little stimulation, like your entrance into the kitchen, can pop up the thought of delicious fish or chicken in the cat’s head.

However, a cat cannot think of a variety of things. Some of them are listed below:

  • Future events
  • Contemplate 
  • Daydream
  • Their own existence
  • Their surrounding environment, etc.

Are cats conscious of their tail?

A cat’s tail is an extremely important component of its body, not just another element. Are cats aware of their tails, then?

Cats can feel their tails. We can infer this since cats actively utilize their tails to support themselves when walking. Cats can also express their feelings by the position and mobility of their tails.

However, there are instances when instincts just take over, and you might notice an unconscious movement of a cat’s tail. However, that cannot be generalized at all. Briefly said, a cat is completely conscious of its tail, all the sensations it touches, and its movements.

Do cats mind their tails being touched?

A cat’s tail is fascinating. And we often fail to resist petting our cat’s tail. But the question here is if cats like their tail to be petted. Let’s find out.

Typically, cats dislike having their tails stroked or pet. The base of the tail can, however, be tickled or scratched. Nevertheless, not all cats are the same, and not all cats enjoy being caressed in the same way. Therefore, finding the ideal location to pet your cat is more of a trial and error process.

Summary

So, this was our take on exploring if cats are conscious creatures. Two key takeaways can be derived from the post- cats are conscious but do not essentially display any sign of self-consciousness or self-awareness. Cats also think but do not ponder or think in language. The information in this post is based on published studies and cat owners’ experiences. We do not intend for this post to provide any psychological or medical cure.

Atrayee

I am Atrayee, I have extreme passion for the Animal Kingdom and I have written a large number of articles for animal behaviors. I am an Animal Lover by nature and own two Cats.
Exploring new things through learning and unlearning is something that intrigues me a lot. I spend my free time with my husband and two cats. I must say I get to learn a lot of wise things from them! You can catch me on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/atrayee-samaddar-06886567/

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